This TOP GEAR story just won’t go away. And even though the BBC issued an apology, the criticisms continue to stream in from around the world. Now, the TOP GEAR hosts—Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May—are taking their lumps from their own countrymen.
Steve Coogan, a rather well-known comedian and actor in the UK, wrote a commentary published in Saturday’s edition of THE GUARDIAN, saying that Top Gear’s offensive stereotyping has gone too far.
After stating that he is a “huge fan” of TOP GEAR and that he has made three appearances on the show (and he highly doubts he will make a fourth now), Coogan writes:
I normally remain below the parapet when these frenetic arguments about comedy and taste break out. But this time, I’ve had enough of the regular defence you tend to hear – the tired line that it’s “just a laugh”, a bit of “harmless fun”.
Coogan continues to summarize the comments the hosts made, which can been seen in this video segment from the controversial episode:
He then makes what we think is the most central part of his argument:
OK, guys, I’ve got some great ideas for your next show. Jeremy, why not have James describe some kosher food as looking like “sick with cheese on it”? No? Thought not. Even better, why not describe some Islamic fundamentalists as lazy and feckless?
Feel the silence. They’re all pretty well organised these days, aren’t they, those groups? Better stick to those that are least problematic.
Old people? Special needs? I know – Mexicans! There aren’t enough of them to be troublesome, no celebrities to be upset. And most of them are miles and miles away.
After describing the BBC’s apology as “mealy-mouthed” and “pitiful,” Coogan chastised the network for using traditional examples of European humor as a weak excuse and claims that TOP GEAR right now is the network’s most popular export and its “public face.”
The [BBC’s] hand-wringing suggested tolerance of casual racism, arguably the most sinister kind. It’s easy to spot the ones with the burning crosses. Besides, there is not a shred of truth in Top Gear‘s “comic” stereotype. I can tell you from my own experience, living in the US, Mexicans work themselves to the bone doing all the dirty thankless jobs that the white middle-class natives won’t do.
Coogan also makes some salient points when he writes:
There is a strong ethical dimension to the best comedy. Not only does it avoid reinforcing prejudices, it actively challenges them. Put simply, in comedy, as in life, we ought to think before we speak. This wasn’t one of those occasions. In fact, the comments were about as funny as a cold sweat followed by shooting pains down the left arm. In fact, if I can borrow from the Wildean wit of Richard Hammond, the comic approach was “lazy”, “feckless” and “flatulent”.
As for the comments about overreactions and the “political correct police,” Coogan writes:
It’s not entirely their fault, of course. Part of the blame must lie with what some like to call the “postmodern” reaction to overzealous political correctness. Sometimes, it’s true, things need a shakeup; orthodoxies need to be challenged. But this sort of ironic approach has been a licence for any halfwit to vent the prejudices they’d been keeping in the closet since Love Thy Neighbour was taken off the air.
Coogan closes with this paragraph, which, quite frankly, was the original reason we wrote our first blog about this just a few days ago:
Gentlemen, I don’t believe in half-criticisms and this has nothing to do with my slow lap times. But, increasingly, you each look like a middle-aged punk rocker pogoing at his niece’s wedding. That would be funny if you weren’t regarded by some people as role models. Big viewing figures don’t give you impunity – they carry responsibility. Start showing some, tuck your shirts in, be a bit funnier and we’ll pretend it all never happened.